Why Journalists Aren’t Responding To Your Pitch
Written by: Aaron Sanders, Publicist
455,000 emails. That’s conservatively about 250 emails a day, 5 days a week, that I received during the 7 years I spent running a TV news assignment desk in my pre-publicist life. That’s a lot of “great opportunities” and “timely story ideas” to sift through. I get bleary-eyed just thinking about it. If I had to guess, I’d estimate about 75% of those emails were pitches from publicists or PR representatives, and less than 1% I’d take the time to respond to.
Now on the PR team at Orca Communications, I experience that imbalance from the other side of the looking glass. I’m the one waiting and wondering, “Why won’t this journalist respond to my pitch”?
Fortunately, I know just who to ask. Putting on my trusty old editor hat, I drilled down the 5 most likely reasons your pitch is collecting virtual dust in someone’s inbox, junk or trash folder. This is why journalists aren’t responding to your pitch.
They Don’t Know Who You Are
Pretty basic here, but imagine your own personal inbox: How much more likely are you to respond to an email from a friend or acquaintance, than you are someone you’ve never spoken to who kinda sounds like they want to sell you something? It’s the ultimate PR world cliché: it’s a relationships business. But clichés become clichés because there’s truth in them. I can tell you as an editor, if I recognized a name of someone who’d commented on a tweet of mine, or got a nice email from when they weren’t asking for something, I was much more likely to read and respond to their pitch. The more you can make it seem like there’s a real empathetic human behind your (I’m assuming) very clever pitch, the better chance you stand at someone engaging with it.
They Don’t Have Time
Scroll back up to the top of this post. 250 emails a day. And that’s for local TV. National editors or writers for top outlets are probably laughing at that paltry number. Let’s give them a moment to catch their breath.
Ok, back to it. Multiply that absurd email number by an average pitch length of about 150-200 words, and you start to get an idea of how your very important email is a drop of water in a sea of product and expert virtue extolling. This makes it so much more important to make sure you are catching the attention of the right person, at the right time with the right pitch.
They Lost Interest (Quickly)
In my news days, I used to amaze and horrify interns with my ability and proclivity to know within the first sentence (and maybe second) whether or not to keep or trash an email. It was the only way to keep up and keep my sanity. The truth is that if I didn’t find something in that first sentence or two that pulled me in, it likely wasn’t a pitch that was right for our newsroom anyways. So don’t bury the lead! If you have a pitch that needs 2 plus sentences of runway to get off the ground, delete it and start over. As a viral YouTube sensation so eloquently put it in 2012: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” This is a very likely reason why journalists aren’t responding to your pitch.
They Never Received It
This is a tough one. You can have the right pitch, a great headline, targeted to the exact right audience – and not only does it never get opened, it never hits their inbox. Spam filters for the various email providers have become a little too good at their jobs. In order to ensure they are filtering out all the super legit crypto investment opportunities and male “enhancement” pill offers, they’re occasionally sending your innocuous, perfectly harmless pitch email right into the dreaded junk folder.
There are a few reasons this could be happening:
Perhaps you included too many attachments.
You could have some spam trigger words in your subject line. You can find plenty of lists of common trigger words by doing a simple search online – this is one of my favorites to reference.
But it could also be no fault of yours: Your email domain may have been blacklisted at some point, forcing some email providers to send your message directly to spam jail. Again, search for tools online to check your domain and get it removed from blacklists.
Perhaps the reason why journalists aren’t responding to your pitch is that they never received it.
They’re Just Not That Into
And then of course, and this can be the toughest pill to swallow, maybe it just wasn’t for them. Your pitch may have grabbed their attention, told a strong and concise story, and been right in the wheelhouse of that particular writer or editor. It doesn’t mean it’s always a fit. Perhaps they wrote about something similar too recently, or it didn’t quite align with the stories and features they’re working on. I remember really great pitches from publicists I knew and liked that I just knew wouldn’t pass muster.
But maybe, just maybe – if you take care to personalize an eye-catching, clear and creative pitch that avoids landing in spam – you’ll get a response with those beautiful words every publicist begrudgingly appreciates:
“Thanks for reaching out. But this is not a fit for me right now.”